Akela had one of her best weekends away ever, but I discovered a remarkable family and the essence of Africa tourism. And, believe it or not, this proud Capetonian is prepared to say that Bushveld vegetation beats the Cape’s fynbos any day!
But about Akela’s weekend first. We were woken on Saturday by Akela’s whining – a very excited wolf. Richard was at the door. And Akela has always swooned when she sees labradors or retreivers – and Richard is a black labrador.
Known for protecting his turf, Richard soon fell for Akela’s charms… and Akela is the biggest flirt I’ve ever known.
Richard was joined later by Timmie, a foxy little dog, and Jack, a thin dachsund that thinks it is a greyhound. He follows cars and maintains a speed of 45km/h for long distances, and has even run all the way to Vaalwater, 30km away! All the animals got on exceptionally well, and Kenya was delighted to have companions more his size.
So much for Limpopo Tourism’s concern that a wolf would not be welcome at local establishments!
I had decided to try a shortcut to Windsong Cottages from Mokopane, rather than following the N1 down to Modimolle and across to Vaalwater before heading north again. It was no shortcut, but it was an African adventure passing through spectacular scenery. As heavy rain started falling on these backroads, we came across a “Road closed” sign. Tracks shows a vehicle had passed shortly before so we took a chance and soon arrived at the entrance to Charles Baber’s farm. The drive up to Windsong Cottages (right) may not be indigenous, but it’s certainly spectacular and promised something very special.
Charles is a fourth-generation Waterberger and I had come here to learn from him about the Bushveld and the Waterberg. A little internet research and gut instincts proved to be right – this is a remarkable family.
His children and their spouses have all contributed to the value and attraction of the Waterberg as an economically-viable, world-class tourist destination.
Anthony and Tessa Baber have built up the well-known Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill portfolio of Luxury Bush Homes. Rupert and Tanya Baber are farmers and partners in Horizon Horseback Adventures. Rupert is also chairman of the Waterberg Biosphere and Tanya has a craft centre manufacturing bead and leather work on the farm. Juliet married Philip Calcott and they run Windsong Cottages on the original Baber homestead.
Our interview with Charles and Nina Baber will follow. And there will be more on Windsong Cottages and the other Baber initiatives. We also learnt that this is a community with a soul and we will also write about the “feel-good” initiatives that visitors will encounter when they visit. Nina invited us to the non-denominational Sunday church service where we – that includes Akela! – met more locals, including Clive Walker who we must also write about.
Charles supported the building of a larger church to replace the tiny St John the Baptist designed by Sir Herbert Baker’s office and built in 1914 on land donated by Charles’ grandfather. Today the original church is used for Sunday school.
But the magic of the Waterberg Plateau lies in its mountains and valleys, and a vegetation that seems almost prehistoric. Was it the novelty of the strange tree forms and colours that appealed to me, or the mass of so much virgin land that stretched as far as the eye can see?
Certainly, SA’s northern provinces have had far more rain than usual and the greenness is appealling. I am probably seeing Limpopo at its best.
What makes Windsong Cottages so special? It is the Babers and the Calcotts and their warm hospitality and knowledge of the area. We’ve stayed in all sorts of accommodation establishments in our travels, but we have never been made to feel part of a family so readily and quickly.
Wile playing with Akela, Rachel came across a praying mantis and Mareliese, who works at Windsong, told her that they love syrup. The praying mantis ate the first tastes of syrup off Rachel’s finger and started biting the finger, so Rachel fetched more in a saucer.
Stephanie took these stunning photos using the Sony A200 DSLR.